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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

'Maybe they're too good for us... But that's the best of what we have'

Noel King was left “flabbergasted” as Ireland were beaten 6-0 by Germany.

Ireland’s Henry Charsley dejected after the game.
Ireland’s Henry Charsley dejected after the game.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

MANAGER NOEL KING was left “flabbergasted” as his Ireland U21 side suffered a 6-0 defeat to Germany at Tallaght Stadium last night.

The win leaves Ireland third in the group with two games to play — Norway’s victory over Azerbaijan saw them overtake the Boys in Green into second.

The Germans are now five points clear at the top and look all but assured of qualification to next year’s European Championships in Italy and San Marino.

Ireland will likely need positive results in their final two games away to Israel and Germany in order to give themselves a chance of progression, though even coming second is no guarantee of advancing further, with only the four best runners-up eligible for the play-offs.

Avoiding defeat on Tuesday was always going to be a difficult task for Ireland. Last night was the fourth time in this campaign that the Germans have scored five goals or more in a single game.

And while the Boys in Green have players who are spending this season with sides such as Macclesfield, Crawley Town, Rotherham, Yeovil, Walsall and Everton U23s, the German side was filled with individuals accustomed to football at a high level.

Every member of the visitors’ starting XI had experience playing in the Bundesliga. 21-year-old hat-trick hero Cedric Teuchert back in January joined Schalke, the side who finished second in the German top flight last season.

The impressive Benjamin Henrichs has three caps for the senior side and joined Monaco from Bayer Leverkusen for €20 million in the summer. Lukas Klostermann, the influential full-back who won two penalties with his penetrating overlapping runs, is a regular for RB Leipzig and has Champions League-playing experience.

The fact that Ireland could have topped the group with a win is a measure of how well they had done prior to Tuesday and also perhaps a sign of how badly Germany have underperformed at certain points during the campaign.

Yet the difference in quality was starkly apparent in Tallaght. The away side dominated possession and territory for much of the 90 minutes, and were clinical in punishing their opponents’ individual errors, while the Boys in Green seldom looked like scoring. However, the Irish boss felt the 6-0 scoreline ultimately flattered their opponents.

“I can’t recall a game like it, to be honest,” King said afterwards

“It was not like the penalties given away [were from chances] they were going to score from.

2-0, 20 minutes into the second half. We had a decent spell, we were alright. And then, I still don’t understand what happened. It was a chasing.

“I’ll look at it again. I thought all our players played well, they worked very hard. And yet, to come out of that, that sounds ridiculous. So I don’t know what to say. But obviously Germany were good and deserved [to win].”

King conceded that the Germans had all but sealed first place in the group, but remains optimistic that his team still have hope of getting through via the play-off route.

“We need to settle what’s gone on and regroup,” he added.

Noel King Ireland U21 manager Noel King pictured during last night's match. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

And did the Irish boss feel the Germany team’s experience of playing at a higher level was telling in the end?

“Maybe they’re too good for us,” he said. “But that’s the best of what we have. Every time you play Germany, they’ve some fantastic players. We’ve had this before, they’re very difficult to beat. They’ve a huge selection, they’re professional, I admire what they do greatly. But we just get on with the next one.

“I thought we were doing alright containing them. The breaks [on the counter-attack] were alright — a little bit threatening, maybe they could be more threatening. But 6-0, I’m flabbergasted. As soon as they got the third goal, that was it. It was exhibition stuff.

The one key thing for us to salvage from the night — I actually thought we kept going until the end. Every player tried their heart out. And it just didn’t go [our way]. It was the weirdest match ever.”

Cork City’s Sean McLoughlin endured a debut at U21 level to forget, as he went off with a hip injury after 16 minutes. Though he didn’t “want to use it is an excuse,” King also revealed that some of the players had been suffering owing to “a virus in the camp,” with attacker Ryan Manning needing to be substituted early in the second half as a result of his troubles, while full-back Danny Kane missed the game due to illness.

With other key players including Ronan Curtis and Ryan Sweeney absent tonight through suspension, King said the availability of these individuals would be important if Ireland are to finish the campaign on a high.

“We’ve had a chat, albeit a small one. You look at it and see where you can help. I don’t think there were too many things you would look at and say — change this and change that. Obviously, individual errors, we’d like to change.

“But we did our best, we take it on the chin, we weren’t good enough on the night. Germany are a top team, they’ll win the group and we have to try to chase second.

“The boys themselves were saying: ‘We have to look back to what got us here, and get back, and fight.’”

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Paul Fennessy

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